A group of Cuban migrants drank their own urine and blood after the engine of their homemade boat failed.
That left them adrift in the Caribbean for three weeks without food or water, according to survivors who reached the United States this week.
“I’m happy I made it, alive, but it was something no-one should have to go through,” said Mr Alain Izquierdo, a Havana butcher, and one of 15 survivors of the 32 passengers.
Six passengers are missing after they tried to swim to shore, while 11 others died of dehydration.
“I just feel sad for those who didn’t make it,” said Mr Izquierdo, sitting under a sun shade by the pool of his uncle and aunt’s home in Port St Lucie, on Florida’s east coast.
The survivors were rescued by Mexican fishermen 240km north-east of Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula and were briefly detained in Mexico before being released late last month.
Mr Izquierdo holds the driver's licence of his late friend Rafael Baratuti O'Farrill, who died during the journey.
Their story is one of the most tragic Cuban migrant disasters in decades.
Reuters spoke to several of the passengers and their relatives in Florida and Texas, although some were still too traumatised to talk publicly about the experience.
The six metre, home-made craft, made from aluminum roofing sheets riveted together and sealed with cloth and resin, drifted up the Cuban coast as the passengers tried to flag down passing ships.
“No-one stopped even though they could see we were desperate,” said Mr Mailin Perez, 30, another survivor recovering in Austin, Texas.
The passengers heaved the engine overboard to reduce weight and fashioned a makeshift sail from sheets sewn together with cord.
Six of the men decided to swim for the Cuban coast clinging to inner tubes, but have not been heard from since.
Under America’s Washington’s “wet foot, dry foot policy,” Cuban migrants who make it onto US soil are allowed to remain, while those intercepted at sea are turned back.